When I was 10, my dad made his television debut. Drumroll please… He was interviewed on the local news about what it was like to be stranded while driving through a blizzard. While my dad was at a dead stop on the Southfield Freeway, a reporter approached his 1981 black Ford Escort to talk about being stuck on the highway.
“You just gotta laugh at it,” my dad responded (at least that’s how they edited his entire interview). His 15-minutes-of-fame lasted for just a few seconds. Still, truer words could not be spoken. My dad couldn’t get to work. The freeway was a parking lot and he had no choice but to wait it out in his car on a snow-covered expressway that was temporarily turned into a parking lot. He was unavoidably stuck.
But my dad was right. You just gotta laugh at it. What else could he do? Getting upset wouldn’t prove anything and wishing his situation away would have been a waste as well.
That was a mantra that we frequently used growing up. But beyond laughing in the face of frustration or other unpleasant situations, humor plays an important role in our family.
For most parents, laughter is an incredible way to connect with a child of any age. It just sometimes gets harder as our kids get older. Seeing a baby smile for the first time is beyond magical. Toddlers are easier to amuse as are most elementary-school-age kids. Beyond those earlier years, eye rolls are so much easier to evoke than actual laughter.
With two teens and a pre-teen in our house, sharing a laugh helps keep us connected. It’s so much fun to bond over an inside joke or make a family member laugh uncontrollably.
As an added benefit, there are actual health benefits to laughing. According to various researchers, a good chuckle can possibly lower your blood pressure, reduce stress hormone levels, improve your cardiac health, and increase your immunity. There is even a pair of researchers who touted an abdominal workout as one of the benefits of laughter. Imagine that: being able to skip a workout if you laugh enough!
OK, so I wouldn’t cancel my gym membership, but those are some good reasons to find more ways to laugh it up.
Parents, particularly dads, tend to rely on humor to connect with their children. There’s even a term for this phenomenon. They are called “dad jokes” – a.k.a. the kind of humor that often leads to loud groans and lots of eye rolling. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “dad jokes” likely help build stronger relationships between dads and their kids.
I spoke to a handful of local parents, including two comedians, about how and why they incorporate humor into their family lives, with each touting various benefits humor brings to their families.
One dad, a rabbi and father of five, uses humor to navigate some of the many challenges of parenting. Because discipline can be stressful for both parents and children, he finds that breaking the tension in an appropriate way is beneficial for him and his kids. Not that he doesn’t discipline. He just goes about it in a different way. So, for example, if one his kids doesn’t want to take a bath, they get stuck on the child’s refusal to get in the tub. If the dad can open his child’s mind with a little humor, it gets that child over the speed bump and willing to corporate.
How does he do it? A little bit of bathroom humor, like making a gas sound, always seems to work but he gets a lot of mileage out of tickling them too.
Family banter works well in another family, although they are careful not to cross the line and embarrass each other. And nobody gets offended because they know it’s all in good fun.
One local comedian plays improvisation games with his sons who are 12 years apart. Another way they keep things fun is by ignoring some of the rules when playing board games. This comedian’s advice: Be more spontaneous than what the rules allow and just have fun.
Other ways these families incorporate humor into their lives is by watching comedies together and capitalizing on shared experiences that are unique to their families. No matter how you chose to bring laughter in your family, remember – you just gotta laugh at it.
– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program Volunteer